The rising cost of driving in S.C. Lower insurance, fuel help little as state drivers pay more for new cars

A man holds onto a gas pump Monday, June 16, 2008, in Cleveland. Crude oil futures swung wildly on Monday, rising to a record and then tumbling as investors wrestled with whether they should put stock in Saudi Arabia's promise to boost production.(AP Photo/Tony Dejak) ¬ ¬ Published Caption 9/2/11: This Sept. 1, prices at the pump were higher than any other year except 2008.

COLUMBIA — Car owners in South Carolina will pay more this year as driving costs reach an all-time high in the state — despite gas prices that have dipped below last year’s levels.

Rising prices for new cars are pushing the average South Carolinian’s annual driving costs above $10,000 a year for the first time, according to a report released last week by AAA Carolinas.

Costs for those driving minivans and SUVs are expected to remain unchanged from last year.

“The biggest thing that is happening is the price of the cars is going up,” AAA Carolinas spokesman Tom Crosby said.

The average sedan is selling for $25,067 this year, versus $23,099 in 2011, the report said.

That means drivers will pay more in finance charges and face steeper depreciation costs.

“People have been waiting for the economy to turn the corner so they can get a new car,” Crosby said, and that has pushed demand for cars, and prices, higher.

Chrysler and Toyota on Tuesday reported big sales gains for April, and, despite a dip in April, General Motors increased its sales forecast for the full year.

Consumers are choosing small and medium sedans that are more affordable and fuel efficient than large SUVs and minivans, Crosby said.

The average driver can expect to pay $10,049 in driving costs this year, up 5 percent from 2011 and up 42 percent from 2007, based on driving an average sedan 15,000 miles a year. That includes insurance, maintenance, gas, tires, taxes, registration, depreciation and finance charges.

Gas prices peaked in South Carolina about a month ago and have been falling ever since, averaging $3.55 for a gallon of regular unleaded as of Friday, about 19 cents lower than this time last year.

The average cost of insurance premiums for sedans also fell 8 percent to $598 annually this year from $649 in 2011.

Sedan owners on average will pay 67 cents a mile this year versus 64 cents last year, if gas prices remain steady.

SUV owners can expect to pay an average of 81 cents a mile, or $12,150 a year, while minivan drivers will pay about 73 cents a mile, or $10,950.